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Right Behind You

Review

Right Behind You

At the age of nine, Kip McFarland is a troubled child. Living with his dad in the Alaskan wilderness after his mother's death, Kip is lonely and jealous of other kids' easy lives. So jealous, in fact, that when his seven-year-old neighbor stops by to show off a brand-new baseball glove, he sets the glove --- and the boy --- on fire.

Institutionalized for the next several years, Kip gains a reputation at the juvenile treatment facility, not only for killing another kid but also for being angry enough to snap at a moment's notice. With the help of a patient, wise therapist and the consistent love of his father, though, Kip does eventually get better and is released.

At the age of 14, Kip is ready for a new start. But in order to find one, he's going to have to change his name and move to another state. In Alaska, folks have long memories and are short on forgiveness. So Kip, his dad and his new stepmom pack up and move to Indiana, where Kip becomes “Wade Madison.” Indiana, with its "corn fed" football players, shopping malls and house parties, seems a world away from Alaska. Surely, Wade is now far enough away to be able to move past his dark secret.

But Wade hasn't counted on the power of the "hungry ghost," as his old therapist calls the hunger for false comforts that bring only temporary relief. Fueled by booze, anger and that old fear of the truth, Wade finds popularity and success only to jeopardize it all with a huge mistake.

Gail Giles's previous novel, WHAT HAPPENED TO CASS MCBRIDE?, was a frightening story of psychological suspense. Although RIGHT BEHIND YOU is not nearly as harrowing, it is even more psychologically complex. Giles has her work cut out for her in making readers care about --- and like --- Wade, who, despite his good qualities, is nevertheless a murderer. Impressively she succeeds, and many will find themselves drawn into Wade's voice and personality despite themselves.

Besides being a fascinating character study, RIGHT BEHIND YOU raises many sophisticated moral and ethical questions. Issues of acceptance (of self and others), honesty and the haunting effects of the past make for a thought-provoking, as well as a genuinely compelling, novel.

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Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011

Right Behind You
by Gail Giles

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316166367
  • ISBN-13: 9780316166362